Anticipation is half the fun of any leisure trip, but the excitement can be even greater for a challenging hiking vacation. Take some steps to be fully prepared for the special demands of an outdoor adventure in the High Alps of Europe, and enjoy the anticipation as you build your endurance and understanding.
Build Endurance Gradually
Start with daily walks or hikes that increase in small increments. Be sure to include uphill and downhill in order to prepare the muscles. Gradually, you will build to a level of endurance that suits your destination. For backpacking, be sure to work the core body and, of course, the legs for gaining that altitude. Your cardiovascular system will need to be as fit as your legs to make the most of available oxygen in the thinner air, so include a cardio segment in your workout.
Start by walking with no weight other than water and some first aid basics. Then, begin adding small items to your day-pack. Eventually add a filled day-pack, then a heavier backpack, gradually adding weight to it until you reach the level you expect to need on your trip.
Learn About Your Destination
Your trip will have more to reveal if you know to look for hidden gems, like natural wonders, local delicacies, or historic sites (yes, even in remote mountains, human history has had an impact). The best part of any trip is the chance to meet people from new locations. Even though your hiking tour guide will share a lot of local knowledge and introduce you to some fascinating local people, the more you know about their locale, history, and culture, the more you will appreciate them face-to-face. Your tour company can suggest a reading list. Practice a few words or phrases in the area language to further enhance your interaction. Knowing the most basic polite greeting or directional question can open up a new level of communication that draws out smiles at least, and a real connection at best.
You may need a backpack for multiple days of tent camping, or just a daypack if your trip includes nightly hotel, hut, or inn accommodations. Still, your daypack should be arranged with as much forethought as a larger backpack, to make each day as comfortable as possible, and to be fully prepared for the day’s likely weather patterns and terrain. Again, your tour company should be the source of detailed information on what to bring, and what to expect on your trip.
Remember to use outer pockets for smaller items that you’ll need to access frequently. Place heavier items on the bottom and pack lighter things on top, like a light sweater or jacket in case an Alpine breeze turns icy. Now is the time to apply your best folding, rolling, and smashing skills to compress and fit everything into a small space.
On guided hiking tours, your guide will have complete first-aid supplies, but be prepared with at least some basics, like bandages, tweezers (for ticks or splinters), and anything medical you might need (inhalers, aspirin, digestive aids).
Think About Your Feet
Besides general first aid, be sure to think about your feet. Unless you are conditioned to heavy-duty, extensive hikes with thoroughly calloused feet, you will certainly be thinking about them as you walk and trek your way across the Alps. Come prepared with some blister bandages, moleskin patches, and athletic tape.
Now that you’ve prepared for the basics, you are ready to enjoy the fun and excitement of a memorable trip amid some of nature’s most beautiful landscapes.